As a landlord, there are many rules and regulations you must abide by including Pennsylvania eviction laws. When trying to evict a tenant, abiding by them isn’t optional, it’s mandatory.
There are many situations that can prompt a landlord to evict a tenant. These range from nonpayment of rent to lease violations. But regardless of the violation the tenant commits, you must never take matters into your own hands. In other words, you should never attempt to use “self-help” tactics as means to evict a tenant.
Examples of “self-help” eviction methods include shutting down utilities, removing the tenant’s belongings, or locking them out. These are all illegal actions in the state of Pennsylvania just as they are elsewhere in the country.
For any tenant eviction process to be successful, you must follow the statewide eviction process. With that in mind, here’s an overview of Pennsylvania eviction laws.
Serving an Eviction Notice
You must begin the eviction process by serving the tenant with a written eviction notice. There are various notices, each serving a different purpose. They are as follows:
Missed Rent Payments
You must serve a tenant who has failed to pay rent a 10-Day Notice to Quit. According to the state’s statutes, rent becomes late the day after it is due. Grace periods are permitted, but they must be included in the lease agreement.
After the rent becomes due, you can begin their eviction by serving them the 10-Day Notice to Quit. This notice only gives tenants 10 days to move out or else risk being evicted.
If they refuse to leave, you can continue with the eviction process.
End of Lease or No Lease
You may also serve this notice to tenants who are nearing the end of their lease and don’t wish to renew. Besides holdover tenants, this may also include tenants on weekly and monthly agreements.
For ‘at will’ or holdover tenants, you must serve them a 15-Day Notice to Quit. For tenants who’ve rented for less than a year, you must serve them a 15-Day Notice to Quit. And for tenants who’ve rented for more than a year, you must serve them a 30-Day Notice to Quit.
Again, you can proceed with the eviction process once the notice period ends.
Violations of the Lease Agreement
This eviction notice is meant for tenants who violate their lease agreement by causing excessive property damage, having an unauthorized pet, and exceeding the rental limit. The specific notice period to give depends on the length of their tenancy.
For tenants who’ve lived in the rental for less than a year, you must serve them a 15-day notice. The same notice period also applies to holdover tenants. Tenants who’ve lived in the unit for more than a year must be served a 30-day notice.
If the tenant remains on the property after the expiry of the notice period, you may continue with the eviction process.
This applies to tenants who’ve committed an illegal act like engaged in the manufacture/distribution/sale of controlled substances. In this situation you must provide the tenant with a10- Day Notice to Quit which gives the tenant 10 days to leave the premises or else get evicted.
Filing & Serving a Complaint
Next, you must go to the appropriate court and file a complaint. Note that filing fees differ depending on the county where you’re filing in.
Once a complaint is filed, a sheriff, constable, or a writ server will need to serve it to the tenant. The service must be done in any of the following ways:
- By providing a copy to the tenant in person
- Mailing a copy of the complaint to the tenant
- By posting it in a conspicuous place on the rental property.
Court Hearing & Judgment
Once the court has issued the summons, the eviction hearing will take between 7 and 10 days later. If the tenant doesn’t show up for the hearing, the court will probably issue a default judgment in your favor.
However, if the tenant chooses to come, the court will give each party a chance to present their case. The following are common tenant eviction defenses in the state of Pennsylvania:
- You used “self-help” eviction procedures. Only a court can rule on whether or not a tenant should be evicted, and even after the ruling, only the sheriff is mandated to physically remove a tenant from their rented premises. All “self-help” remedies are illegal and if you carry out any, you may be financially liable for any losses the tenant might have incurred.
The eviction notice contained errors. An eviction notice must contain certain crucial information, like, the violation committed and the amount of notice the tenant has to move out. If any of this information is missing, the eviction may not hold and you may need to start the process over again.
- The eviction is based on discrimination. Under the federal Fair Housing Act, it’s illegal for landlords to discriminate against their tenants based on protected characteristics. The characteristics include race, color, religion, gender, familial status, and national origin.
- The tenant stopped paying rent because the unit was no longer habitable. As a Pennsylvania landlord, you must adhere to the state’s implied warranty of habitability. If you fail to do so, the tenant may have a right to stop paying rent until you remedy the situation. In which case, you cannot then use nonpayment of rent as grounds to evict the tenant.
- An eviction is a retaliatory act. You cannot try to evict a tenant for retaliatory reasons. Tenants are free to organize or join tenant unions and make complaints to relevant authorities without any fear of eviction.
Issuance of Writ of Possession
This is the final eviction notice to the tenant and allows them time to move out on their own before a sheriff removes them from their rented premises. In Pennsylvania, the writ is normally issued to a landlord 5 days after a judgment is issued.
Landlord rights include evicting a problem tenant. That said, it’s important that you abide by all the landlord-tenant laws and Pennsylvania eviction laws. Doing so will protect you and your investment property. However, laws are always being updated which can make it difficult to stay informed.
For help managing your properties and staying on top of all rental laws and regulations consider hiring the services of a professional property management company like DeSantis Property Management. Their team of experts will be able to answer any questions you may have! Contact them today to learn more about their services.
Disclaimer: This is not a substitute for professional legal advice. If you need help, please contact either a qualified attorney or an experienced property management company.